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Ricard challenges meaning of ‘craft’

Pernod Ricard’s new CEO Alexandre Ricard has criticised the “vague” definition of craft spirits, especially in the US whiskey market.

Alexandre Ricard
Pernod Ricard CEO Alexandre Ricard

He said he was “struggling with the definition” of craft spirits, and argued that some of his company’s brands have more of a right to describe themselves as “craft” than other smaller producers.

“We need to communicate to consumers what ‘real’ craft is”, he said, continuing that it is less about the size of production than the “story” behind a brand and its people when it comes to the “craft” label.

Ricard was speaking in London at his first financial results presentation as CEO since his formal appointment to the role at the beginning of February.

The company posted stable performance for the first half of 2014/15, with downward trends in China and their struggling Jacob’s Creek wine brand offset by strong growth in local Indian whisky brands and Jameson in the US. They did, however, post a 5% fall in profits against just 1% organic growth in sales.

When asked about the rise of Bourbon in the US – a category that Pernod Ricard hasn’t yet tapped in to – Ricard admitted that the company is “slightly under-exposed” in the American market.

He argued that Pernod’s lack of Bourbon “doesn’t in itself present an issue” because “brown spirits as a whole” are growing well, continuing that the company is well-placed to take advantage of this through its Jameson Irish whiskey brand.

However, Ricard didn’t rule out the possibility of a Bourbon being brought in to the company’s portfolio in future. He said, “Should opportunities pop up we’ll clearly look at them. It’s a question of the right opportunity, price and time.”

In a recent exclusive interview with dbRicard said that he intends to lead his company to become the number one drinks producer in the world, overtaking rivals Diageo.

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